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Why You Should Brine Your Veggies—and How to Do It

Photo: Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock.com

"For insanely delicious vegetables, you need to infuse them with spicy, sweet, and savory notes from the inside out, so there are no bland interiors,” says Michael Solomonov, the award-winning executive chef at and co-owner of Zahav in Philadelphia and the coauthor of the recent cookbook Israeli Soul.

That’s where brining comes in, he says. It imbues your veggies with flavor and tenderizes the inside, while the salt or sugar in the mixture makes the outside crisp when you cook them. (Related: Different Colored Vegetables That Pack a Big Nutrition Punch)

For a bold Middle Eastern spin, try Solomonov’s signature shawarma brine or make your own using the tips below. (Related: How to Store Fresh Produce So it Lasts Longer and Stays Fresh)

Shwarma Brined Cauliflower

Ingredients

  • 2 quarts water
  • 4 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Baharat (a spice mixture)

Directions

  1. In a large pot, mix together water and spices. Warm over medium heat, whisking, until salt dissolves fully. Let cool.
  2. Brine cauliflower in mixture for 2 hours at room temperature. Remove, shake off liquid, and place on rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Brush cauliflower with 2 tablespoons olive oil and roast at 450°F for 45 minutes or until browned and tender.

How to Make Your Own Brine

Directions: Heat 1/2 teaspoon each of the spices (see below for inspiration) in 2 quarts water with 4 tablespoons kosher salt and 1 tablespoon sugar. Let brine cool, then soak vegetables for 2 hours at room temperature before cooking. 

For eggplants: sugar and cinnamon
For mushrooms: dill, allspice, and garlic
For zucchini: cloves, pepper, and cardamom

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